“Hardwater Headshake” by Trevor Johnson of Kit’s Tackle
By angelamontana

Posted: January 3, 2013

With a new year upon us what fishy possibilities await us in the year to come???  The biggest walleye of your life, learning how to fly fish, catch more fish???

In the first couple days of 2013, the most popular resolution I have seen on social media sites (ie. Facebook) has been to catch more fish.  I feel I should do my part to help you net that resolution!  I would like to anchor the focus on ice fishing since the hard-water has cast across our lakes.  I was lucky enough to finish 2012 out with a big bang battling some giant rainbow trout through the ice.

We were using the Pro Series Marabou (Black, undeniably the best marabou color under the ice) and the Micro Glass Minnow Series with the “Parrot” and “Rainbow Flash” being the magic flavors.  We were tipping the jigs with maggots and we caught fish both jigging and dead-sticking the baits.  The beauty of the Glass Minnows is even with no current the material is so subtle it undulates on its own driving fish crazy!  They also play a large part in inducing strikes from BIG fish because of their realistic representation of natural forage.

Big fish are big for a reason; they have big appetites, but the presentation MUST feel right to their lateral line for your jig to end up in their feeding hole.  So let’s not just focus on more fish, let’s focus on more quality fish right??  I mean hey, I love catching big fish, don’t you?

The first topic I would like to cover is the importance of color and “matching the hatch.”  We were fishing a prairie lake where the forage consists primarily of freshwater shrimp…so of course pinks and oranges would work great!  So your probably wondering why we were using trout representations then right?  Great question, although the freshwater shrimp imitations will produce, I’m looking to catch the pond monster and his family.

Believe it or not, our gently rainbow trout doesn’t just feed on caddis and shrimps…they are a carnivorous beast from the deep that will gladly devour a juvenile of their own species or something out of the ordinary!  It relates very well to me after coming home from the brewery after a few hard earned tipples.

Of course, I could go with the staple Doritos in the cupboard OR I COULD COOK A GIANT DELICIOUS PIZZA AND EAT THE ENTIRE THING!!  I think you get the point…although after I destroy the kitchen my wife says I’m no big catchL  So the tidbit is, to have out the staple presentation to put fish on the ice and have the BIG GUNS to entice Grandpa Bow;)

The next topic I would like to drill on is rod or tip-up placement on the ice.  I feel like a broken record here but every time I go ice fishing it never fails I see an angler with his spread set out in a circle.  I think I will be stressing this point until the day I go to walleye heaven.  UNLESS you’re setting up around a sunken island or you’re the Michael Jordan of ice fishing…NEVER DO THIS!!  The Kit’s Tackle police will be on patrol looking for you circulars out there;)  Always…AND I MEAN ALWAYS setup in a straight line to INTERCEPT THE FISH ON THEIR TRAVEL ROUTE.

Fish generally always travel contour lines parallel to the shore or underwater structure depending on the body of water you are fishing.  My recommendation is to start drilling close to shore (or your point of beginning) and run holes every eight feet to the completion of your spread.  This does two very important things:

1.)    Intercepts fish in all travel routes

2.)    The sets are still close enough together that if traveling in schools there can be multiple hook-ups

Here are a few more tips for setting your spread:

-Never set so far you can’t get to a fish in time.  Nothing is worse than getting to your rod (out of breath) and the fish is gone.  Or worse, your rod gets sucked down the hole (of course I wouldn’t know anything about this;))

-If possible, set two rows parallel to each-other at different depths.  Now you’re intercepting the fish at all travel routes and depths. (ie. If fishing for rainbow trout have one spread down 6 feet and the other spread down 12 feet.)  For the record, I didn’t tell you that;)  My dad would kick my butt!!

-If using a power auger, drill your holes at a slight angle (helps coast the fish up the hole, especially if they have some shoulders on em’) and always use a 10” blade if possible.  You don’t want to know why I don’t recommend a 8” ice hole…let’s just say some fish won’t fit;)

The next point I would like to cover is the importance or (unimportance) of electronics.  This might be the death of Kit’s Tackle, but I am a firm believer that too much time dedicated to electronics is dead time…meaning I’m already going to have fish on the ice.  Obviously they are a very important tool in any fashion of ice fishing; just don’t get too carried away.  I once went with an electronics guru who spent the whole day searching for the perfect weed-line or the cup in bottom structure.  If his frustration wasn’t high enough, I had fifteen jumbo perch on the ice before his jig was in the water.  All in all, what I’m saying is the old-school method of hitting it hard does pretty darn well for this guy;)

Here are my biggest tips and uses of electronics under the ice (remember I’m an amateur with technology and electronics.)

1.)    My biggest use for graphs rather its open water or ice fishing is a fast track to find the depth.  I can punch a set of holes and in a matter of minutes and know the depth of each set.  Seventy-five percent of the time sonar is strictly a depth tool for us…I’ve caught more big walleye in open water with no arcs than with arcs.  Don’t rely solely on your graph!!

2.)    I will be eating my words a little here but sonar is very productive (and fun) for calling fish and adjusting to fish.  For any serious ice-heads out there you will know what I’m talking about here…nothing is more fun than calling a fish in and tweaking your jigging to induce the strike. The other game changer is when you’re jigging for trout fifteen feet down and you mark a fish at six feet and reel up, give it a few pops and BOOM!!  This makes even a technology Neanderthal like myself feel like a pro;)

3.)    Although not a graph, underwater cameras can be very helpful when fishing.  For example, if you’re starting to drill your hole set for a three day trip at Fort Peck it’s worth the time to see what you’re setting your rigs in.  I can assure you no matter how lively a minnow is it will not get devoured if buried in weeds or between two huge rocks.  Plus it’s pretty fun to get a fish eye view!

If you would like to learn more about electronics because you obviously didn’t learn anything from me;) visit the pros at Vexilar which is the industry leader in ice fishing electronics.


Lastly, (since I could go on forever) and most important is to be safe and have fun!  We are still with early ice conditions in most places so please use the most extreme caution when heading out onto the ice.  Always go with a partner and carry a spud bar for testing ice conditions if there is any concern.  And if kids are around, man up and ALWAYS let them catch the fish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Good luck on the ponds and cheers to “Jiggin’ the Dream”